A Taiwanese flag flies over Taipei in this undated photo.

A Taiwanese flag flies over Taipei in this undated photo. (Adam Jones/Wikicommons)

TOKYO — The Defense Department on Wednesday shot down recent media reports saying special operations Marines were working with forces on Taiwan this week.

Taiwanese and Japanese news outlets, which cited Taiwan’s defense ministry and naval command, said the Marine Raiders were at Tsoying Naval Base in Kaohsiung on Monday, training Taiwan marines in assault boat and speedboat infiltration techniques. If true, it would have been the first public acknowledgement of such training by either side since the 1970s.

However, Pentagon spokesman John Supple, in a statement emailed to Stars and Stripes via Indo-Pacific Command on Wednesday, called the reports about U.S. Marines on Taiwan “inaccurate.”

“The United States remains committed to our One-China Policy,” he said, referring to a policy acknowledging that Beijing believes it has sovereignty over Taiwan. The sides split during a civil war in 1949 and China considers the island a breakaway province that should be brought under its control by force if necessary.

Though Washington has no formal relations with Taiwan’s government, which is elected democratically, U.S. law requires the government to ensure Taiwan can defend itself.

U.S. actions are guided by the Taiwan Relations Act and based on an assessment of Taiwan’s defense needs, as has been the case for more than 40 years, Supple wrote in the statement.

“The United States will continue to make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defense capabilities,” he said.

U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan have increased in recent years, as China builds up its military and remains dedicated to a goal of annexing the island.

Beijing spoke out last month against a U.S. plan to sell $1.8 billion in weapons systems to Taiwan and warned the move could cause “serious consequences” to already frayed Sino-American relations.

The Pentagon spokesman, in his statement Tuesday, said China has engaged in a string of destabilizing activities aimed at both Taiwan and the broader region that increase the risk of miscalculation.

“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure targeted at Taiwan and to engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan,” Supple wrote. “Any resolution of cross-Strait differences must be peaceful and based on the will of the people on both sides.” Twitter: @SethRobson1

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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